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Thursday, Sep. 25, 2008 at 4:48 am

Texting, Linguistics, Gender and Murder

By Holly Buchanan
September 25th, 2008

I’ve done a lot of research on male vs. female communication styles.¬† But apparently these gender differences aren’t limited to conversation, there are also distinct linguistic styles in texting.¬†¬† This bit of linguistic¬†difference even¬†helped convict a¬†man of murder.

Jenny Nicholl disappeared on 30th June 2005. A linguistic analysis showed that text messages sent from her phone were unlikely to have been written by her but, rather, were more likely to have been written by her ex-lover, David Hodgson. A number of stylistic points identified within texts known to have been written by Jenny Nicholl were not present in the suspect messages. Instead, these were stylistically close to the undisputed messages of David Hodgson.

I have to tell you – the mere thought of a term like “forensic linguistics” makes my brain buzz.¬†¬†¬† I’m just enough of a geek to think that would be one cool job.

What we say, and how we say it, write it, or text it says volumes about who we are.

Why is this important to you if you’re a marketer and not a prosecuting attorney?¬†¬† People respond when you speak “their language.”¬† Even subtle differences in wording or phrasing can make a huge difference in conversion.

I was working with a financial client recently, and we found the word “legacy” had different meanings for different people.¬†¬† For some, it was positive.¬† For others, it sounded egotistical.

Ahh…the power of words.¬†¬† Thanks to Jeff Sexton for sending me the forensic linguistic article.¬†¬† I love Jeff’s writing and always find it insightful, even if he does use “thesaurus words.”¬† :)

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Comments (7)

  1. My BA was in Linguistics (and American Studies–way to find overlapping majors. NOT.), so I always perk up at forensic linguistics stories, too.

    Maybe I just watch too much CSI.

  2. cool

  3. It’s so true and a great tactic to take when communicating, especially in business, is to somewhat take on the other person’s (maybe it’s a client) traits. If you can get them to think you are like them, they are more likely to bite on whatever you are pitching.

    Although, admittedly, that’s somewhat difficult to do on a website that receives a variety of people. I guess that’s where testing, and unique landing pages come in eh.

  4. As a linguistics major, I thought it was a fascinating read.

  5. Cool, now isnt this interesting.

  6. Hi Holly,

    Thank you for telling us this news. Appreciate !

  7. If you can get them to think you are like them, they are more likely to bite on whatever you are pitching.

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Holly Buchanan is a marketing to women consultant specializing in marketing to women online. You can read her blog at She is the co-author, along with Michele Miller of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

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